Faith seeking understanding, my personal journey towards a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with God, the cosmos, humanity and myself through thoughts, words and (occasionally) images, is a series of [hopefully] daily reflections I’m writing with the purpose of publishing something on a regular basis for others to read, either here, at joncarllewis.com or among my writings at Medium.com.
Every so often, I get the urge to read the Bible straight through from beginning to end, Genesis through Revelations, just as I used to do as a boy every night before bed. But I usually stop myself, especially after looking at various schemes for reading the whole Bible in a year, say, or in a shorter time period than that. I used to read the Bible as one would read a novel: one compelling, coherent, unbroken narrative beginning with the Creation and ending with the taking up into heaven of those who believe in Jesus’ name. I read the Bible as I was taught, that it was the story of Jesus Christ from beginning to end and was pretty much dictated to a long series of holy scribes by the Holy Spirit. Even in what I used to call the “Old Testament,” the story was designed to provide proof of an all-powerful, unchanging Father God, and induce in the hearts of all who read the story a conviction that they needed to accept Christ as their personal Savior or, literally, go to Hell. And then I went to seminary.
What happened there changed the way I read the Bible so drastically that I felt like I was seeing things in the words of the Bible that I had never seen before. Furthermore, the unified, coherent, unbroken story seemed to fall apart into fragments, some of which provided very different—if not conflicting—perspectives on the same issues. I came to finally see that the reason I couldn’t figure out the timeline of creation is that there are two creation stories back to back with the events of creation presented in different orders. I was led to notice that the story of King David was told twice, with varying accounts of when and how he met King Saul. And I saw nuances in the story of David and Jonathan that seemed to flirt with the idea that certain parts of Leviticus just might not have gotten things right.
It was as if I had been reading the Bible with a pair of regular glasses, then switched to spy glasses that let me see things in the text that I wasn’t able to see with the old lenses. I learned that this was due to the fact that we—each and every one of us—need to wear certain glasses to read the Bible. Very few people in this day and age—and for much of Christian history—have been able to sit down and read the original text in the original Hebrew and Greek and Aramaic, much less understand the cultural references and assumptions the writers invariably included in their telling of the stories of God in the best way they knew how.
I came to realize that the Bible is, fundamentally, a human product, written—I believe—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but using language and idioms which of necessity were peculiar to a particular place and a particular time for an audience of flesh and blood contemporaries most of whom probably couldn’t read.
My apple cart was completely upset, and it has taken to this day to come to some, incomplete understanding of how to put things right again.
[It’s almost midnight, so, like Scheherazade, I’ll have to leave you hanging until some other time—hopefully tomorrow!]
Thank you for your time and attention.
I’d love to know your thoughts on what you’ve read.
Please comment, below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May God richly bless you on your journey.